「劇場版 あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない」 (Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai)
“We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie”

There’s great comfort in knowing some things never change.

I wasn’t totally sure how I’d feel about returning to AnoHana, some three years after the completion of the TV series. I certainly loved it (I ranked it #2 on my list for 2011), but three years is a long time – all of us change over a span like that, not least as fans of a specific medium such as anime. And maybe some part of me had come to almost believe the 20/20 hindsight criticism of the series from so many quarters, that maybe I’d been kidding myself about just how great a show it was.


The first thing I need to say is that I’m very glad I didn’t see this in a theater, because it would have been a rather embarrassing spectacle. That’s how it is with me and AnoHana – this story gets me where it hurts (especially when the strains of “Secret Base” start playing). I think it’s a pretty good acid test of whether someone is constitutionally capable of being moved by fiction, because AnoHana makes no bones about the emotions it’s trading in. It’s not overly subtle, and it’s not especially complicated – but it is absolutely honest. It’s an unaplogetically sentimental story which asks of the audience only that they embrace some very fundamental human feelings – some call it manipulative, but I don’t see it that way. It’s just completely lacking in subterfuge or deception. There’s a strong current in anime fandom (more in the English than Japanese-speaking community, interestingly) to dismiss any anime that displays emotion openly as inherently defective, and it’s so pervasive that I only now realize that I’d almost allowed myself to feel guilty about loving AnoHana – as if doing so betrayed some character flaw. It’s great to be able to embrace it wholeheartedly again, and recognize the pompous scorn heaped upon the series as nothing more than it is – an opinion, plain and simple.

There’s no need to go into a great deal of detail here, because this is essentially a retelling of the events of the TV series, and I already have 12 posts on that (indeed, it was one of the first series I blogged). There are some new scenes and they do flesh out the emotional side of the story very effectively (especially an additional game of Kakurenbo), but for the most part this is a look at the events of the series from a slightly different angle. I think it’s on-point and comprehensive enough that someone who’d never seen the series could follow it and it would resonate, and if you liked the series (and vice-versa) I see no reason why you should feel differently about the movie.

There’s a wistful subtext in watching AnoHana in light of where Okada Mari’s writing journey has taken her since, I won’t deny that. For my money this series and True Tears are the apex of her career by a wide margin, and returning to Chichibu and the Secret Base with her is a reminder that when she’s in her element, Okada-sensei is a major talent. Subtlety is not her strength, but painting the emotions tied into friendship, loss and first love is – and when she’s paired with a first-rate director like Nagai Tatsuyuki the results can be spectacular (as they are with AnoHana). Nagai-sensei’s role in the success of this series and film cannot be overstated – he’s arguably the best director in anime when it comes to relationship drama and romantic comedy.

Watching this movie I’m struck as well by how fantastic this cast is. Of course any fan of Cross Game registered immediately that AnoHana was a reunion of its three stars – Miyu Irino, Tomatsu Haruka and Sakurai Takahiro. But the ties to CG really are deeper than that – AnoHana too is a story of dealing with the tragic drowning of a young girl, of the Miyu-portrayed boy with the beautiful soul who was damaged by it and the Tomatsu tsundere girl left behind who loves him, and forever measures herself a memory and comes up short. Adachi’s work is all about psychological subtlety and emotional subtext, while Okada obviously paints with a much broader brush. But the feelings are strong in both instances, and Miyu and Tomatsu are once again superb here – both are among the very best in the business, and they have a magnificent chemistry. Hayami Saori (Tsuruko) and Kondou Takayuki (Poppo) are both excellent, and the actors who play the boys as children – Mutsumi Tamura as Jintan, Seto Asama as Yukiatsu and Toyasaki Aki as Poppo (all of whom have much more to do in the film) equally strong. And the great Kayano Ai as Menma takes what could have been a grating role in lesser hands and infuses it with real depth and integrity.

It’s interesting to muse on why I didn’t re-watch AnoHana, but I suppose it’s most likely that the emotional impact on me the first time was so strong that the urge to endure that again never quite won the day – that and the fact that the story felt complete and told, with no need to return to it. That said, I was amazed that I found myself so totally immersed with these characters again so quickly – in that sense a movie like this can almost feel like time travel if it’s well-made. And this one is very well-made, indeed. It’s spiritually faithful to the original while giving us just enough of a new framing device (the Super Peace Busters reuniting a year after the series ended to send Menma letters they’ve written to her) to feel fresh. And more importantly than that, to give the impression that it has a reason to exist – the movie really does have something to say, and it does add something meaningful to the AnoHana experience. This is not a reworking, a substantive reinterpretation of the series’ events and ending – more of a fond reflection with the benefit of a little distance provided by the passage of time.

This works – all of it. The movie works, and AnoHana still works as a concept. Why? I would say because for all its simplicity – or perhaps even because of it – AnoHana is a brilliant little story. It’s elegant and direct and unpretentious and asks us to make no Olympian leaps of logic or empathy. These are very universal and basic things all of us can understand – friendship, loyalty, first love, the hurt of unrequited love, and most of all the pain of having to say goodbye. This is magical realism in the truest sense of the word, using fancy to allow the exploration of the human experience in a way literalism cannot. For all the high-handed derision heaped upon it from certain quarters since its airing, AnoHana remains wildly popular and by most, beloved – and it’s quite deserved. It’s a beautiful and painful story, the kind of hurt that feels cleansing and sort of nourishing. I’m glad I still feel that way after all this time, and I’m glad I was able to re-discover my love for AnoHana.


  1. Pokemon, i mean, Nokemon is a very important part of one’s childhood. Without it, there wouldn’t be Menma in Super Peace Busters.

    Be missin’ you, AnoHana. Forever one of the best anime I’ve ever seen.

    Red HeartGold ZX
  2. Just like the TV series, the final hide and seek had me floored. No amount of force or effort could hold the tears back. Hearing the intro to Secret Base laid me to waste.

    Ano hi mita really kept its magic.

    That said, has Mari Okada done any other dark psychological stories? The happenings in WIXOSS 8 is errily similar to the tale of the fallen magic girl

    1. All of her stories have at least some melodrama in them. IMHO True Tears is still one of her bests, although AnoHana .. well .. lets call them a draw.

      I think that this movie managed to achieve something that is very hard to do. As series watcher I thought it did very well as a companion piece to the series yet I think for those new to it I think the story wasn’t lost although some details (like the cross-dressing) was only brushed over. So I think for both new and previous watchers it worked.

  3. I was watching this in theaters way back a few months ago. Oh man. The feels yo. I wasn’t ashamed about showing my feels. What I was ashamed about was the Viz tote bag they gave us… But it was compounded by this little gift http://i.imgur.com/7nGzxae.jpg

    It now haunts me in my room. I shall never forget the feels.

  4. My friend invited me to watch this in theaters and I was absolutely torn between going or not. Why? Because who wants to cry like a baby in public, especially when you’re a 20 year old guy? 😛 So yeah, I didn’t go lol. And yes, for the record, I did bawl my eyes out throughout the movie. Damn you feels…damn you!

  5. The original series made me cry (by the way, this is the only anime that made me cry, others such as Angel Beats, only made me teary-eyed) Since I’d seen the series, thought I won’t cry, but it didn’t turn out that way. I still cried, especially when the Secret Base song started playing in the background..

  6. @Enzo
    Be honest with me here: Sentimentality aside, what did you think of the movie? Did it really bring any more substance to the series, or is it just the same story compacted into an extended montage of scenes with a few extra events to smoothen the flow?

    Having watched the movie, I can only see it as something made to milk AnoHana for all that it’s worth. I can certainly agree that it was a good movie, capturing the essence of what the series was all about with excellent pace and flow, but I find that there isn’t much else about the movie that makes it special. “Recap” sounds like a bad way to describe it (though I do feel it’s an appropriate description) so I’ve come to think of the movie as an “overdue epilogue” of sorts.

    My intention is not to paint the movie in a bad light, but I just felt that I had to question the focus of our attention: Do we actually need this movie in order to feel the way we do about AnoHana as a series? Should this be considered “essential viewing” for fans? Personally, my answer would be no. Simply put, I found the movie to be unimpressive (maybe even a little disappointing), and I wondered if you (or anyone else, for that matter) might be thinking I’m crazy for thinking so.

    So why should we watch the movie? You’ve mentioned simplicity, but that seems to be in reference to the concept that AnoHana showcases. You’ve mentioned that the movie has something to say, but all it really does say seems either to point to or to be what has already been said in the series. The more I think about it, the less remarkable the movie seems to be.

    I do have an answer to that question for myself. It’s more of an attempt at coming to terms with the personal cynicism I have towards the movie on its own than it is an objective response, and I get the feeling that we might not see eye to eye on this. To me, what this movie does and only does significantly is remind me of how much of a modern masterpiece AnoHana was and still is, and for me who also nearly gave in to believing the hindsight criticism it received, restored the adoration I have for the series. I had the sole expectation of seeing something new and special when I decided to watch the movie, but by the time I hear the familiar melody of Secret Base in the background, I find myself with the urge to go back to where it all began, at the very first episode, and to experience for myself once again the full extent of what AnoHana was to me.

    I can’t really say I wrote all this with a clear objective in mind, but I guess the gist of what I’m saying would be that this isn’t a movie worth getting worked up about, but it is still worth watching simply for the fact that for those who’ve seen the series from start to end, we’re presented with the privilege of experiencing a tiny fraction of the same emotions once again, and in return, the desire to be completely immersed in the entire “AnoHana” experience is reignited in our being. Or something like that. Or maybe I just wanted a place to think out loud. =/

    Thoughts, if any?

    1. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but my rebuttal is pretty much already written – it’s in the post. I think the movie definitely adds something to the experience and functions as much more than a recap, and I explained why.

      1. And this is strange to me because I don’t see that rebuttal at all, regardless of how many times I reread your post. But it’s nice to know that you found something more in the movie that I couldn’t grasp, I guess. An enjoyable review all the same.

  7. I remember watching this when it screened at a local theatre with my boyfriend who has seen it before unlike me. I thought it beautifully well done and man was I bawling by the end, there was so much feelings. Last time I cried at an anime film was at the end of the first Noke… I mean Pokemon movie ’cause it got pretty sad there.

  8. This is how Anime Movies are done. Bravo. I also cried about 3 separate times during the film which is unheard of for an anime movie. This truly brings new material to the anime and it helps supplements the feels the series gave. Ano Hana proves to be one the tear shedder still after all these years.

  9. To be honest I agree with Junglepenguin, the movie barely added new substance and greatly portrays Menma as a typical Mary Sue character (especially in the scene where she says she has been “left out” through Nokemon). For me the movie ruined my impression of the TV series because of this overly idealized female protagonist who takes away all the realism of the whole story. I can understand how every possible scene is centered about how everybody loves Menma in the TV series, but after all the friends eventually receive redemption, the following movie doesn’t show much about how they choose to move on; instead, the movie conveys how everybody loves Menma, loves Menma and loves Menma while the other two female characters in particular are very much neglected and merely serve as contrasts to this perfect female lead. Overall, I thought this movie wasn’t very necessary – the major purpose is perhaps to remind people of the existence of a TV series 5 years ago? It seemed more like an advertisement to me.

  10. There was a lot of monologueing and the character dynamics weren’t as strained as the anime. Also all the jumping around in time didn’t really add more to the story but came off as a half-assed attempt to seem artsy.
    It wasn’t a bad movie but the anime did the story so much more justice.

  11. why can’t movies be stand alone anymore? I mean the last movie that was stand alone was disappearance Haruhi. Sailor moon, cardcaptor sakura, trigun, tenchi muyo, you’re under arrest, martin successor nadeshiko, fma, and smile procure all had movies that were stand alone. not “retellings” of the things we(the viewer) have already seen in the TV version.

  12. After watching the movie, I realized the hole the fun Menma had left in my heart when I met her almost three years ago. The ending here was truly that of that Menma has literly passed on and that’s how everyone’s life is when someone passes.

    Ah this series hits me where it hurts because their childhood days are very close to mine. I may not have lost some friend to death, but sure time and changes people go through sometimes kill the older version of them you used to know.

    Best series, watching this movie was reaffirming.

    I liked the scenes and loved them.

  13. I’m glad I still feel that way after all this time, and I’m glad I was able to re-discover my love for AnoHana.

    While I have not watched the movie yet, I would like to experience the same feelings as when I first watched the television anime series of AnoHana as you had, Guardian Enzo. Thank you for the post with high-quality screenshots. It makes me want to go and watch the movie as soon as possible.

  14. I remember watching this in theatres. I have not seen an entire theatre that emotional ever. Like there were even some dudes with grey hair sobbing (not crying, sobbing) a couple of rows in front of me. And when secret base started playing … ugh … it was impossible to not at least shed a tear.

  15. Anaru is as cute as ever. I really wish we’d see a proper ending where Anaru and Jinta would end up together. Of course, Turuko and Yukiatsu as well. And please, give the ever so lovable Poppo someone too.

    The Story You Don't Know

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